The Arab Businessmen Initiative Forum, which comprises of chief executive officers of companies that have the largest investments in the Arab region, announced the formation of a committee that will represent the private sector in driving Arab economic integration. The Forum took place on the sidelines of the preparatory meetings for the Arab Economic and Social Development Summit in Sharm El Sheikh on Tuesday.
Members of the initiative chose Sheikh Abdullah Saleh Kamel, managing director of Dallah AlBaraka Group, as chairman of the initiative, and Yesser El Mallawany, CEO of Hermes Holding Company, and Mohammed Al-Shaya, chairman of the Executive Management Council of Mohammed Humud Al-Shaya Company, as his two deputies. Sheikh Kamel represented the private sector in the Summit in Sharm El Sheikh and delivered a speech before the Arab kings and presidents to present, for the first time, the private sector's demands to Arab governments.
“We introduced some very efficient ideas and mechanisms that if applied will lead to tremendous changes in the business map of the Arab world," telecommunication tycoon Naguib Sawiris said. "They will facilitate inter-Arab investment, entering new markets, and will end the problem of regional disputes because economy doesn’t have to overlap with politics."
Among the ideas presented was that of businessman Khaldoun El-Mawqea, who proposed a unified Arab investment law.
The participants in the preparatory meeting agreed on a mechanism to set up an entity made up of the largest Arab companies who would represent the private sector's view on how to accelerate common Arab economic action.
“This business forum, to hear our voices, is itself a tremendous change and hundreds of steps forward”, said Alaa Ezz, a businessmen and chairman of Egypt’s Chamber of Commerce. Ezz, who is also president and CEO of the Enviro Egypt Group, believes that the initiative to include businesses introduced by Kuwait during 2009 first Economic summit is a “conceptually and strategic new trend."
Egyptian Minister of Trade and Industry Rachid Mohamed Rachid, who was the chairman of the last summit before joining government, had an entrepreneurial and multinational career. He established and grew fine foods, which became Egypt’s leading brand.
“Having Arab businessmen and representatives of Arab and regional companies and funds participating in this year’s summit is part of the Egyptian initiative to speed up the achievement of Arab economic integration, and having their voice heard,” Rachid said, calling on leaders to adopt further measures and legislations to encourage and motivate Arab companies to expand their businesses in the entire region.
“The most important thing about this summit is that it will foster understanding among Arab businessmen and create more inter-Arab projects that will help face the growing unemployment in the Arab region,” Raja El-Kabarity, chairman of Jordan’s Chamber of Commerce, said.
The initiative is the first effort of its kind to formulate an integrated and modern vision to mobilize Arab capabilities and resources and direct them toward economic and social development in the region. It will also draw up the mechanisms and plans that would maximize common Arab economic action in the fields of investments and trade. It will demand the removal of the obstacles that hinder joint Arab action and the legislative and border barriers that prevent the movement of capital, goods, individuals, and ideas.
Egyptian and Arab participation in this forum has increased, with the total number expected to reach 100 chief executive officers of regional companies, some Arab ministers, about 30 chairmen of regional Egyptian companies, and some members of the People Assembly's Economic Committee. In this forum, the Arab private sector formulated a specific and practical vision on how collective Arab economic cooperation in the field of trade and investment can be activated. The representatives of the pan-Arab companies will hold a third meeting in an Arab country in March to follow up on what will be agreed.
The initiative comprises a large group of Arab businessmen representing the largest Arab companies and sovereign funds. They include Khadeem Al Darei, deputy chairman of Al-Dahra Agricultural Company, one of the companies of Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed; Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Zamil, chairman of the Saudi Zamil Group; Engineer Khaldoun Al-Mawkie, chairman of the Syrian side to the Egyptian-Syrian Business Council; Hussein Al Shobakshi, Al-Futtaim Group chairman; Mahmoud Farag Imran, chairman of the Arabian Capital Investment and Finance Company; Sheikh Khaled Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, chairman of the Bin-Zayed Group; Mohammed Al-Shaya, chairman of the Executive Management Council of Mohammed Humud Al-Shaya Company; Mohammed Al Abbar, chairman of Emaar Properties; Firas Tlass, chairman of MAS Economic Group; Ahmed Al Suwaidi, chairman of Al-Suwaidi Electric; Naguib Sawiris, chairman of Orascom Telecom; Sheikh Mubarak al-Mansouri, president of the Emirates Investment Authority; Sheikh Abdullah Saleh Kamel, managing director of Dallah AlBaraka; Suleiman Al Muhaidib, chairman of Abdulqadir Al Muhaidib and Sons Group of Companies; Ibrahim Saleh, chairman of Al Kharafi Group - Egypt; Sheikh Mohammed Bin Suleiman Al Rajhi, chairman of Al Rajhi International for Agricultural Investment; Fuad Al Ghanim, chairman of Fuad Al Ghanim and Sons group of companies; Yesser El Mallawany, CEO of Hermes Holding Company; Hassan Haikal, managing director of Hermes Holding; Mohammed Al Arini, chairman of the CDG Fund; Yahya Bin Ladin, managing director of Bin Ladin Group; Shirin Abbas Hilmi, managing director of Pharco Group; Dr. Mohammed Shakir Al Marqabi; chairman of Shakir Advisory Group; and Aref Naqfi, founder and CEO of Abraj Capital Group.
The Arab Businessmen Initiative was established based on an initiative from Engineer Rachid Mohammed Rachid, minister of trade and industry and acting investment minister, who called for the launch of a council for the chief executive officers of the largest Arab companies and sovereign funds with a view to drafting a vision and mechanisms to speed up and increase inter-Arab investments and trade and presenting them to Arab kings and presidents in the economic summit in Sharm El Sheikh. The aim is to obtain the suitable political, legislative, and regulatory cover to launch a practical and realistic initiative to advance Arab economic integration through the private sector's effective participation in the effort to increase inter-Arab investments and trade.
The initiative also seeks to present the demands of the private sector and secure the legislative environment, the infrastructure, and the rail and road linkage between the neighboring countries to encourage investment flow and create an investment attracting domestic environment.